On a recent trip back to Chicago, I took my family to the Shedd Aquarium. We’ve been members of the Shedd for years and have always enjoyed exhibits such as the Wild Reef and Caribbean Reef.
We also liked to see the dolphin show at the Oceanarium. But in the year since we moved away from the Windy City, the Shedd has opened a new show at the Oceanarium called Fantasea.
Gone are the demonstrations of dolphin care, feeding and training. In their place is an embarrassing mixture of Cirque du Soleil and Sea World.
The Oceanarium used to show off the aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins without exploiting them. Now the dolphins, Beluga whales, a sea lion, some penguins and a red-tailed hawk are paraded out to do tricks amid loud music and costumed performers. It’s a sad spectacle.
A review in Time Out Chicago does a great job summing up my concerns with the show, which the Chicago Tribune says cost $14 million to produce. What a waste. That money should have gone to new exhibits or for fish food.
I’m especially sensitive to how the Shedd’s animals have been turned into entertainers after watching the excellent documentary “The Cove.”
Even putting aside my concerns about the treatment of these animals, Fantasea is a lame show. It left me shaking my head in disbelief several times.
Shedd should do the right thing and end this production. I’m ashamed to be a member now.
At the very least, it should strip away all the theatrical elements of the show. Just show the animals in as natural a setting as possible.